Monday, August 25, 2008

(32) Indy, Indy, Indy!

Good Indy racing yesterday.

I love Infineon raceway. It's so open and everything is just right there. It's not like F1 GP circuits where everything is miles away from the fans and you can't get anywhere near the pits. At Infineon, you can get close enough to touch the tire racks and hear the pumps on the fuel machines.

Fun day. Got there while the drivers were busy careening around in Camrys to entertain the sponsors. I saw a lot of contact and general understeer hilarity. Then we went through the tunnels to the stands and watched the pit crews practice tire changes. Some of the drivers were standing around talking to the crews.

Helio Castroneves is hopping up and down with enthusiasm. No, really, he is, see, look: he's airborne.

I don't think my mom really knew what we were going to see. She was really excited when I started telling her who was going to be there. She loves Helio (from Dancing With the Stars, ugh).

Of course, the two Penskes were on the front row so I was excited too. I like Tony Kanaan as well, since I've heard him call Marco Andretti "stupid" on at least two separate occasions. Not that I think Marco is stupid, but I like when drivers say their minds.

The Andrettis had a special guest, too; George Lucas (of Star Wars creation fame, in case you live in a very deep cave on the moon) showed up to promote his new movie, which features on Marco's car.

And my mom's day was made when she got to ride in the back of a Ridgeline with Helio around the track on a parade lap. Needless to say she was pretty excited.

My mom got this picture just at the end of the pits after the parade lap. Helio, as ever, is totally enthused and into it. And look, you're on TV.

The race itself wasn't the most action-packed, I'll admit, but there was still a couple of crashes, a few offs and spins as well. The Penske's took a 1-2 and there was some really nice pit strategy coming from that team.

Some people are saying that the fanbase isn't up, and that the stands were empty, and revenue is down (which it may be), and the racing isn't as good as some others, etc, etc, etc ad infinitum.

Pshaw to that.

People who nitpick about Indy racing need to pull the stick from their bum and stop comparing sophisticated, precise and expensive open-wheel racing to cheap, unsophisticated, and imprecise stock car racing.

When you compare Indy to NASCAR it's like comparing fire and water; they both completely exclude each other. You're much better off comparing Indy to Formula and when you do that Indy seems like a Godsend.

If there is really trouble going on within the organization, which there very well may be, all we can do, being racing fans, is watch and go to races and let the IRL handle themselves.

We'll just get in the way.

The end (of that at least).

Anyway. Another cool thing is the Russell school had a little exhibition between the Indy Lights race and the main GP. They took the Formula cars out and did a little race for fun while they talked for a bit about the school. After the GP we went down to the Russell garages to see what was going on and chatted for a bit. I'll show you the garages because I don't think you guys have seen them yet.

The Russell garages on Turn 1. On the left, Audi R8s from the Audi Experience (sister program to the Russell schools). On the right, the Russell Formula 3 cars which cost about $160,000 and are all carbon fiber. And in the middle on the stand, a kart from the school "upstairs".

Earlier I said how much I like Infineon raceway. And I really do love it. And getting tons of people and having these big events is cool. But when I really most enjoy the racetrack is on the weekdays, when only one lane of the main gate is open and there are only 2 or 3 cars going around the track, and other than a few odd staff the place is deserted. That's when the place really comes alive and seems to have it's own personality. That's when the real magic happens.

And that's what I really love about it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

(31) Turning right to go left

Well that picture came in just now and here it is:

Click the image for full detail.

That's coming out of Laguna, probably about 40 or 45 MPH if I had to guess, maybe less because I'm sliding a bit. You can tell because I'm turning the wheel to the right, in a left-hand turn. You don't want to turn the wheel right to go left. You want to turn left to go left. Ha-ha-ha.

That was also during the race after I had hit another kart a little bit with the nose.

I need my own helmet.

The one thing I do want to point out though is my expression. You watch any racer, racing any car (or kart) and they will have that exact same expression. Very strange phenomenon right there. Mine might be amplified a little bit though because I'm still a newbie in the "seat of your pants" mode. I don't really know what I'm doing.

I like to talk about myself. Don't you like to talk about me too? I thought so.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

(30) The hardware store

Well, I was going to wait until I got pictures of the race to make another post, but there seems to be a problem in obtaining them so that'll have to wait. So I'll just put up what I have.

Look what I got at the Hardware Store!

Hardware Store being the racetrack. They take rubber!!! And in exchange you get a shiny thing.

It's great. More places should use that business model.

Anyway, this Sunday I'm going to the IndyCar race at Infineon Raceway. If you see a short, skinny guy with Super Saiyan-like hair (not quite that long... I don't defy physics) and a pair of comically-red Oakleys then come on over and say hi. I think I'll be sitting by the start/finish so I'll be within easy reach for autographs.

Speaking of the Indy Racing League (IRL), there's a karting series that is sanctioned by them called Stars of karting. I might try for that. Maybe I'd end up with a seat in IndyCar? I hate ovals but I'd take any seat I could get really. It'd be great for my professional career. Then once I had more of a foothold I could go on to do other things that may not be as lucrative as IRL.

Next race I'm going to go around to all the transporters and have a chat with all the karting teams and see what's what and try to decide who to buy from or even what to do next year.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

(29) Jubilation!

I set my first pole, got my first podium, and reset my fastest lap on National regular!


I really kicked it up a notch today. I'm running in the 55-56 second range regularly. I did get knocked down to B group for my DNF last month, but I still earned some points. If you remember I was 10th last month but before the race today I was 18th out of 32. I earned 170 points so I've definitely moved up and I'll probably be back in A group next month.

Qualifying was good. Nothing weird happened there. Well, other than setting pole, but that's a good thing. My pole time was 55.39 I think. That time would have got me 2nd in A group.

The race was... pretty exciting. There's responsibility with pole, you set the pace and are responsible for gathering the field up after an out lap.

There were a couple of wild cards this race though. One guy from Atlanta that works for Skip Barber at Road Atlanta and has a good amount of racing experience, and one guy that used to run SKUSA ProKarts but got kicked out for crashing too much.

Unfortunately for me, these were the people that beat me. Actually, mister crash-a-lot wanted to start at the back. He wanted passing experience. So he sandbagged his qualifying. He ended up in 9th. "I'm not last?" he exclaimed.

So yeah, he passed the whole field and took first with 2 laps left. Had the field been the "normal crowd" I would have won. But oh well.

The Barber worker was my front row partner. We had an agreement to not start racing in earnest until about the 2nd time by, unless either of us made a huge mistake.

Well, I did.

Green flag drops, and I give my kart just a tiny bit too much throttle. The engine bogs down and off my row partner goes. He had me through turn 1. He kept increasing his lead little by little.

Then, about the 2nd or 3rd lap, I see a kart shoot by me on the inside, accompanied by a lot of smoke, and the driver spins in front of me. He just braked too hard. Well either way, I ran into him because he locked down the kart really quickly and stopped right in my line. I didn't hit him too hard but it bent my front "wing" kind of bad. The front cowling (the bit that covers the steering shaft) got bent, and it was rubbing my throttle foot or pedal. I don't know if I was doing quite full throttle, and if I wasn't then it wasn't a big difference. But I'll never know so I won't worry about it.

The important thing is the nose stayed on and I didn't get passed. But about 2/3rds of the way into the race, crash-a-lot came roaring by. He passed 9 karts today for the win. The guy's not human.

So, I ended up with 3rd, with fastest lap in 55.2 and a 11 second lead over 4th.

I'm really happy with that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

(28) Going faster is slowing down

The rate of progressions has decayed! The mountain is steeper as you go on!

Sorry, I'm babbling a bit. Basically what I'm saying is every 10th of a second takes more work to gain now. The progress of going faster has slowed down.

But, I am improving little by little. It was a little hard to see it too much today, because most of the faster guys were there and none of the guys that are slower than me. But, fastest lap time doesn't count for much. I always do worse in practice than I do on race day, because in practice I'm focusing so much on how I should be doing this particular corner or whatever, and on race day I kind of relax. That's really evident in my social tendencies. In practice I really keep to myself and don't talk much, but on race day I talk with pretty much everyone and make jokes and stuff.

We ended up running National regular again. I leaned that they never run the Sprint course for races. That's too bad because I we've got 4 possible tracks (that go over start/finish, anyway) and we only use 2.

Anyway, I don't know whether it was my memory or if I was going a lot faster in this one corner, but coming out of the bottom of helipad seems a lot more G-force intensive than it used to be. After a long session when I shoot through there it feels like my head will come off. I completely lift out of the seat and I'm sticking to the side of my seat going through there. I'm coming off of that corner really well. Entrance through tic-tac-toe isn't so great but my exit is nice.

The race is gonna be a good one I think.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

(27) Grégoire l'artiste

Practice tomorrow. If it's the National track again (reverse or regular).... well I probably won't complain. It'd just be nice to get onto a new configuration. It's been about 6 months since I took my first class on the Sprint track, and I'm kind of eager to get back on it and see how much faster I've gotten.

Not really a whole lot to talk about right at the moment. So I will create something to talk about!*

* Read: run my mouth.

If you're on the internet, and subsequently reading this site, then you might, repeat, might, be a nerd, like me. And if you're a nerd (or a geek, either way), there's a good chance that you have played a video game. And if you have played a game, or many games, then you probably keep up with games on the internet. And if you've done that (last one, really), you've probably heard a lot about this whole "games are the 8th art form" etc.

Now that got me thinking, if a video game can be considered art, then what about cars?

For the sake of sanity (eh?) it's worth mentioning the 6 basic art forms: painting, sculpting and architecture being the spatial arts, and music, dance and poetry being the temporal arts. These were compiled in the manifesto "Reflections on the Seventh Art" by Ricciotto Canudo in 1923. The seventh art, being, of course, film.

Can you tell I live in California yet?

The interesting thing about these art forms, is that at least for the recent part (the 7th) it has always contained all of the former parts (the rest being so ancient that it's kind of impossible to tell what came first and who was inspired by what). Meaning, film is a combination of painting, sculpting, architecture, music, dance and poetry, with a new medium, being the actual film.

On that basis, video games are a container for film, painting, architecture, sculpting and all the rest, and by adding in interactivity, we can assume that it is the 8th art; interaction.

But what if cars bring out the 9th? Well, lets go down the list.

The painting is the colors of the car, inside and out. Check.

The sculpting is the shape of the car, inside and out. Check.

The architecture is the engineering of the car. Check.

The music is the sound of the car. Check.

The dance is the performance of the car. Check.

The poetry is how the mechanics of the car talk to you. The feel of the gear shift, the feedback of the wheel. Check.

Now, film. I could say it is the spectacle of a race, or the view out the window, or the theatre and drama of a fancy car. But no. I'm going to cop out and say it's the SATNAV. Check.

And finally, interactivity. Well, you turn the wheel and the tires move, right? Check.

So what does the car bring to the table that could give it the title of 9th art form? There are a few options.

Practicality or convenience. I'm going to dismiss that one right now. It's stupid. Art is not practical or convenient. It is excess. We don't need it, but we all have it. We don't actually need cars. We could get to where we're going just fine on our own two feet. Or on the back of a frog or a dragon or something. But we all have cars, even though we don't actually need them to function.

Could it be thrills? No, maybe not. Some cars just aren't thrilling (cough Chevy Aveo cough).

But I think we need to define the actual manifestation of art. I think that's pretty easy; art is the relationship between the man and the item. Poetry, for example, talks, and the man listens.

That significantly narrows my train of thought.

After a few minutes of thinking (gasp! People still do that?!), I think I have found the manifestation; cooperation. Harmony. The car drives us, and is there to be driven. To properly drive a car, you have to adhere to it's strengths and acknowledge it's weaknesses. Even though there are many types of cars, with engines in the front, and in the back, 2 doors, 4 doors, 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive, to get the car to do exactly what it's supposed to you have to work with it and understand it as an individual thing with it's own tendencies.

Therefore, cars are the 9th art: Harmony.

I'm satisfied with that. I'll be accepting my Nobel in the mail shortly.

Now, off to solve world hunger.